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B.C. log haulers fight for exemption to federal HoS

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Log haulers in B.C. may not have to comply with the new federal Hours-of-Service rules slated to take effect in January, 2007.

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Log haulers in B.C. may not have to comply with the new federal Hours-of-Service rules slated to take effect in January, 2007.

The forest industry has worked with government and driver groups to form an Hours-of-Service regime that’s better suited for log haulers, says Roy Nagel of the Central Interior Loggers Association (CILA).

That group, along with several others including the B.C. Forest Safety Council, is pushing for a set of rules that will allow more on-duty non-driving time.

The federal rules call for a cap of 13 hours of driving and one additional on-duty hour whereas B.C. log haulers insist a second hour of on-duty time is required. This would result in a minimum of nine hours of rest per day compared to 10 hours for other Canadian truckers.

The joint industry proposal would also mean a minimum of 30 consecutive off-duty hours per seven-day week, compared to 36 hours for other truckers. Log haulers would also be able to put in 80 hours of work per week compared to just 70 for most truckers.

Nagel said the exemption is required for log haulers for several reasons.

“Records kept by truckers show that many of them operate between 14 and 15 hours per day now, and of that total time, 80% are driving hours,” he explains. “In other words, they have a tough time attaining the allowable 13 driving hours per day now.”

Nagel said a 14-hour work day would only allow for 11-12 hours of driving per day for most log haulers.

Coupled with short operating seasons and seasonal road restrictions, Nagel argues the federal HoS rules would mean truckers would lose significant income.

“The loss of one hour per day, based on 125-150 operating days per year in this region, at $125 per hour for the truck, means a reduction in yearly gross revenue of between $15,625 and $18,750 per truck,” Nagel calculates. “That’s a strong inducement to leave log hauling and move to other industries.”

He also points out drivers operating on long cycle times will lose even more operating time and face the prospect of getting in one less trip per day.

Furthermore, Nagel says there simply aren’t enough trucks and drivers out there to move the volumes required by the timber mills.

Currently, B.C. log haulers enjoy an exemption from the federal Hours-of-Service. In fact, they currently have no weekly cap on working hours and no mandatory rest periods meaning they can put in 105 hours per week. Accepting an 80-hour work week cap is a significant sacrifice, Nagel points out.

The joint industry proposal initially was greeted with resistance by some driver groups and unions.

The United Steelworkers called on government to cap truckers’ hours at 12 per day, five days per week with no distinction between driving and on-duty, non-driving time.

“Drivers mustn’t be expected to exceed 12 hours of work a day,” Ron Corbeil of the United Steelworkers said in a release in the spring. “The research is clear: performance begins to degrade after eight hours on-duty, so that when employers force inhumanely long hours, it’s simply morally wrong.”

That position appears to have been trumped, however, by the industry coalition led by the CILA.

In September, Nagel said the industry proposal was set to be accepted by the province, barring a major last minute snafu.

“(The CVSE) wanted industry to come up with a plan and we did,” he tells Truck West. The new rules set out by the industry coalition are expected to be implemented Jan. 1, 2007.

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